This novel begins explosively as a headteacher at a posh private school in Vermont watches a video of three of his male adult students having sex with an underage female student. He immediately thinks of expulsion and cover up although he is upset because he recognises and likes the male students involved. The book then explores, through the viewpoints and testimonies of each ofthe people involved, including the parents, the ramifications of this single act. As a fiction the book is excellent, "uncluttered" in Steph's phrase, and each different voice is captured so that you really get an impression of each of the characters. The book is sympathetic to each of the character's viewpoints, although the girl (totally not a victim) is clearly an utter airhead.
There are a number of moral issues left hanging. Given that the headteacher's own sex life is scarcely a model of rectitude (he slept with his wife the night that he met her at a party) it is difficult to understand why what the boys did was so totally awful that it led to such shame. Yes it was filmed and yes she was underage but older boys sleep with younger girls regularly and the sky does not always fall in. The other question is whether the school should have attempted to cover up: the consequences of what happens after the press find out are so awful that a cover up is the best thing. If this could have been just 'boys will be boys'it would have blown over.
A powerful and thought-provoking book, somewhat American in its love of details and the way it wrings the last drops of drama from the situation. Well-constructed although rather clearly constructed.
July 2009, 305 pages
- I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57